Firefighters Remember Fallen Brother
By: Carly O'Keefe
SESSER, Ill. - Sesser firefighters are mourning the loss of 43-year-old volunteer firefighter James Miller, killed in the line of duty. Black ribbons hang over the truck doors at the fire station, and the flag is at half mast, but a firefighter's job is never done; not even when the department has lost one of its own.
Sesser firefighters responded to calls throughout the day Friday, even after Miller was hit by a Greyhound bus on Interstate 57 while putting out a flaming tanker-truck fire. According to Fire Chief Cletus McBride, I-57 was reduced to one lane while firefighters battled the blaze. When firefighters were cleaning up after the fire was out, a Greyhound bus bypassed the lane closure and hit the rear of one of the fire trucks also and hit Miller.
James Miller was known by his fellow firefighters as both "Jimmy" and "Shibby". He was a 22-year veteran on the department, and dedicated his life to serving the Sesser community.
"He lived for this fire department. He always said he wished he could do more. But it didn't work out that way," said McBride.
In addition to his role as a volunteer firefighter, Miller was also very active in the Sesser First Baptist Church, and often offered his helping hand to folks even outside Sesser city limits.
"When Katrina hit down there, he went with a group to unload water and food," said First Baptist Church member Jack Stubblefield. "He did lead an example of a Christian life."
It was a life many feel was cut tragically short Friday morning in the line of duty. Sesser firefighters hope to prevent any future tragedies when they respond to calls on Interstate 57.
"We've already decided that if we're going out there, we're going to block off I-57 regardless of what it is. We don't want this to happen again," said McBride.
The department also plans to lobby the Illinois legislature to increase the penalties for hitting emergency personnel on interstates and highways. They say the current "Scott's law" is not adequate to make people really pay attention to flashing lights along the roadway. They also urge folks traveling on Illinois roads to pay attention if there are emergency vehicles working an accident scene, because just like in the case of Miller, a tragic event can occur in less than a second at 65 miles per hour.
Tentative funeral arrangements have been set to take place at the First Baptist Church in Sesser. Visitation is tentatively set for Tuesday at 5 p.m. and services will take place Wednesday at 1 p.m.